My Hometown: Halifax
When I first moved to Halifax almost two years ago, I soon realized that I'd never lived in a friendlier place.
Guide to Halifax
A Newfie once told me that Maritimers were so generous “they’d give you their backside and never sit down again.” As silly as that sounds, it’s true. Halifax might be the biggest city in the Maritimes, but the generous-spirited people make it feel like a small town.
Bars and Live Music
Halifax is famous for the number of bars it has to cater to its relatively small population (around 400,000). The bar scene here is unique because there is very little snobbery: everyone drinks together no matter what their age, or how expensive their clothes are. Also unique is the amount of live music in the bars, which means that there is always a “Ceilidh” (pronounced “kayli” and Gaelic for “musical celebration”) happening somewhere.
On any given night you’ll be able to choose from a variety of musical genres. Bearly’s House of Blues and Ribs has consistently great visiting and local blues musicians almost every night. The Seahorse Tavern has showcased live bands since 1948.
There are a lot of talented covers bands in town, which allows for plenty of singing along in bars such as the Split Crow and the Lower Deck. What’s different (and rather sweet) about these bands is that they’ll often add a Celtic twist to their repertoire of rock classics. So you might sing along to Tom Petty’s “American Girl” but be accompanied by a fiddle.
Various festivals throughout the year contribute to the sense of fun. The brilliant Halifax International Busker Festival attracts up to half a million people, and all the action is centred around the gorgeous waterfront of this working harbour.
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Because Halifax is such a small and walkable city, you really can see a lot of it on foot. Visitors should check out the Citadel, an impressive star-shaped fort built in 1856, which is on top of Citadel Hill and provides a superb view of the city and beyond.
For more of a sense of Halifax’s history, take an Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour, where guides in period dress host a multimedia tour that ends with traditional songs and the drinking of beer. Some of the oldest structures in town are to be found on the cobbled streets of the Historic Properties, a cluster of galleries, shops, restaurants and bars.
The Pier 21 Immigration Museum is a tearjerker of a place that tells the stories of war brides, orphans and immigrants from all over the world. If your relatives landed in Halifax between 1928 and 1971, there’s a record of it here (and volunteers to help you find those records).
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Food and Restaurants
Whatever their budget, Haligonians eat rich thanks to an abundance of seafood and locally grown produce. We have world-class dining at upscale restaurants like Stories, which has perfected East Coast fusion dining and is the perfect place for a special dinner. Scallops and lobster are on menus everywhere, from the classiest joints to hole-in-the-wall places, at incredibly reasonable prices.
Brunch here is epic. There are plenty of places where you can still score a substantial three-dollar breakfast, but restaurants like Jane’s on the Common and Coastal Cafe offer mouthwatering gourmet breakfasts that are well worth lining up for (which you’ll have to on a weekend). You can pick up great local fare at the Farmer’s Market, perfect for picnics and eating on the go.
Travelling To and Around Halifax
If you can do it, take the time to come to Halifax by train. The scenery is lush, especially in the fall. It’s a beautiful overnight journey from the west, and gives you a window on how gorgeous Nova Scotia is. There is so much to do in Halifax, but if you get a chance to head out of the city you’ll find incredible sandy beaches, historic lighthouses, woodlands and pretty coastal towns. I live in a beautiful place and I’m proud to be able to call Halifax my hometown.
Next, check out more love letters to hometowns across Canada.